One of the most talked about news items in our area this week has to do with the future of the Carriage House facilities in Dunkirk and Fredonia. Nearly 500 employees have been working at these plants and we understand there already may have been some who have been relocated to other areas, including the future site in Buckner, Ky.
In the meantime, while we do not know what the future holds for the plants, we know this: the employees at Carriage House are a generous bunch. Each year, the company and its work force are one of the largest donors to the United Way of Northern Chautauqua County campaign. Their workers are also major volunteers in community initiatives and veterans events.
For that, they deserve thanks.
But the story is not much different from what we reported March 18, the time the area learned NRG Energy Inc. in Dunkirk was cutting back on its capacity. NRG's footprint, we found, was quite extensive. It reached out to Brooks Memorial Hospital, the Boys and Girls Club of Northern Chautauqua County, the Dunkirk Lighthouse and the United Way campaign to name a few.
But NRG this month has already cut back. Now, who fills this void?
The same question can be asked about the future of Carriage House. If its parent company Ralcorp decides to move further operations to Kentucky, who will help the non-profits and agencies we rely on?
Unfortunately, many of those employees at Carriage House, who earn less than those in the public sector in total compensation, give more to charitable causes such as the United Way campaigns than those employees at school districts and municipalities.
Our void of major corporate employers has decreased in the last three decades. Do not kid yourself. Those private-sector employers, not municipal halls or schools, are the lifeblood of many vibrant communities.
Without these major employers, the need will grow. And the population of northern Chautauqua County, which crawls downward annually, will be in a sprinting decline.
Not helping the matter any, the city of Dunkirk announced "significant" increases to the water rates for the coming two years.
It cannot happen. We have an already high tax burden and unfriendly business climate.
At a time when uncertainty surrounds a major city and Fredonia employer, "significant" water rates hikes in the city may only quicken a decision that ends up hurting us, residents and the region in the long run.
Don't do it.
John D'Agostino is the publisher of the OBSERVER. Send comments to email@example.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.